Guest Column: Job market leaves qualified workers wanting

Life is full of inconveniences and disappointments, but the most frustrating event that has happened to me over the recent years is trying to obtain a new job and get my career going again. I am a regular over at the resource room at the 11th Street unemployment office, a participant in Rock Valley College’s Dislocated Workers Program, and an intelligent, able-bodied person ready to work. In addition, I have more than 30 years of media experience and have written 13 books.

My background includes a 19-year career with the Illinois Department of Transportation. In this capacity, I wrote news releases, did voice-overs for public meetings, data entry, took photographs, and handled public inquiries. Last year, the governor’s people reorganized the department and “abolished my job.” I was never involved in politics or union activities and just did my job for the taxpayers every day. While the former mayor of Rockford got a new job, and the present mayor contemplates his new staff, highly qualified people like me without political connections are never considered for new municipal jobs. Chicago city workers who have lost their jobs due to scandals have abused the privilege of working for the government.

During this time, I have waited patiently on various state lists for job opportunities that have not materialized. I have contacted all the media outlets in this area that could utilize my talents and skills. In fact, since last May, I have sent out more than 500 résumés and job inquiries and have received few interviews. I have changed my résumé, mouthwash, deodorant, got a new haircut, and that did not help either. I have kept myself busy doing volunteer and odd jobs. Each time, it’s the same thing … at age 56, I am too old, or over-qualified. When I make cold calls on businesses, I see that many offices are staffed by much younger individuals who seem to have all the jobs.

In one office, the employees were busy throwing paper airplanes at each other, complaining about the background color of their computers, and fighting over a plate of free donuts. In a recent survey, it was pointed out that younger workers waste up to two hours of each day surfing the Internet, engaging in personal phone calls, and idle chit chat. These people have cell phones, drive around in fancy cars adorned with vanity plates. To them, life is a blast, while many of us older workers who would appreciate a job like that are contemplating bankruptcy and seeking food stamps. Older workers are more dedicated and have much to offer employers.

Yes, there are jobs in this city. People who own nice houses have to have one to maintain their property and lifestyle. But for the rest of us over at 11th Street, we are destined to spend each day faxing our résumés to job leads, seeking the advice of the RVC staff, and at the end of the day are totally frustrated by not getting a job, even though we are very qualified.

A word should also be said about the various Internet job sites like Monster, Career Builder, etc. In over a year of looking at their jobs, I have not gotten one good lead from them and am often sent “opportunities” that I am not qualified for or interested in. I was told that a computer and not a person examines the reésumés and looks for certain key words in them. In addition, people like me are often referred to unscrupulous individuals who often try to involve us in pyramid or investment scams that are not jobs at all.

I want an opportunity to work for a good company that markets a solid product and offers benefits. I have many good years of employment left for the right firm, and lots of media experience. For those who have jobs, consider yourself fortunate that you have the means to pay your way through life. If you do not appreciate your job, there’s plenty of us over at the 11th Street resource room who will gladly trade places with you.

John Russell Ghrist is a local resident.

From the Aug. 10-16, 2005, issue

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